Overview of the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, known as the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ or the ‘Nifty Fifty’, is a very popular lens, and for good reason: it’s fast and cheap.

I used to own one of these, but I later sold it.  I have no need or desire for a 50mm lens, as the focal length doesn’t appeal.

However, given the enormous popularity of this lens, I think it’s worthwhile to point out what’s good about it, as well as what’s bad.

Anyone considering purchasing one can take these simple facts into consideration.

What’s Good?

  1. It’s light.
  2. It’s small.
  3. It’s fast (as in wide aperture).
  4. It’s sharp.
  5. It’s inexpensive.
  6. On an APS-C camera, it provides classic portrait framing.

What’s Bad?

  1. Its barrel and mount is plastic.
  2. It has no distance gauge.
  3. It has no ultrasonic focus motor.
  4. It’s slow to focus, and noisy, too.
  5. The focus ring is awkwardly positioned and small.
  6. It has a five-bladed diaphragm, producing unappealing pentagonal bokeh.

What the lens does provide is a lot of bang-for-buck.  It’s ridiculously inexpensive for what it delivers.  Of course, if one wants a fast 50mm lens and can live with the negative aspects I’ve itemised above, it’s worth having.  Even if the lens turns out to be unappealing after all, it won’t be an expensive learning exercise.


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